may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
In the Matter of the Welfare of: M.J.L.
Ramsey County District Court
File No. J599552621
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 102 State Capitol, St. Paul, MN† 55155; and
Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Bennett C. Rosene, Assistant County Attorney, 50 West Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 560, St. Paul, MN† 55102 (for respondent Ramsey County Community Human Services Department)
Patrick D. McGee, Assistant Ramsey County Public Defender, 1086 Otto Avenue, St. Paul, MN† 55116 (for appellant mother)
Paul W. Bergstrom, 580 Dayton Street, St. Paul, MN† 55102 (for guardian ad litem)
††††††††††† Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.
In this appeal from a district court order revoking a stay of the order terminating appellant-motherís parental rights, mother argues that the record lacks clear and convincing evidence that she violated the stay conditions.† We affirm.
††††††††††† M.J.L., currently age seven, has been diagnosed as autistic and moderately to severely retarded and functions at the level of a two-year-old.† Mother has a history of neglecting M.J.L. and her older son, J.M., and is unable to meet M.J.L.ís special needs.† The record contains considerable evidence that motherís parenting problems and inability to meet M.J.L.ís special needs are due in large part to her mental illness.
††††††††††† In February 1998, respondent Ramsey County Community Human Services Department (RCCHSD) began attempting to provide services to mother and M.J.L. †In June 1999, RCCHSD filed a child-in-need-of-protection-or-services (CHIPS) petition, and in July 1999, the district court adjudicated M.J.L. a CHIPS based on neglect and unfitness.† The district court approved a case plan setting forth requirements for mother to meet and services to be provided to the family, and M.J.L. returned home to live with mother on a trial basis.† The in-home placement was terminated, and M.J.L. has been in an out-of-home placement continuously since November 27, 2000.
††††††††††† RCCHSD has provided services in an effort to reunite mother and M.J.L., including child-protection services; early-childhood-special-education programs; daycare; section-eight housing; developmental-disabilities services; a pediatric neuropsychological assessment; mental-health services, including psychological, parenting, and medication assessments and individual and family therapy; and a personal-care attendant and foster-care placement for M.J.L.
Mother has consistently failed to cooperate with RCCHSD.† She has failed to participate in therapy and has denied having mental-health problems.† Mother has not shown an understanding of M.J.L.ís developmental limitations.† For example, during one supervised visit, she brought a bicycle for him to ride.
In May 2001, RCCHSD filed a petition for termination of motherís parental rights alleging that mother had neglected to comply with parental duties and was palpably unfit to be a parent, that reasonable efforts had failed to correct the conditions leading to the CHIPS determination, and that M.J.L. was neglected and in foster care.† In October 2001, RCCHSD and mother entered into a settlement agreement under which mother admitted the allegations in the termination petition and RCCHSD agreed to stay the termination order and move to dismiss it if, within 270 days, mother successfully completed the settlement conditions, which included taking any prescribed psychiatric medications and cooperating with county child-protection workers and other professionals involved in the case.
††††††††††† In December 2001, RCCHSD moved to vacate the stay of the termination order based on motherís failure to comply with the settlement conditions.† Mother filed a responsive affidavit stating that she had complied with the settlement conditions to the best of her ability and moved for an evidentiary hearing.† At a review hearing in January 2002, the district court granted mother 18 days to respond in writing to the affidavit evidence submitted by RCCHSD that mother had not complied with the settlement conditions.† The only response mother submitted by the deadline was a proposed order.† Without conducting an evidentiary hearing, the district court ordered motherís parental rights to M.J.L. terminated.
††††††††††† ďParental rights are terminated only for grave and weighty reasons.Ē† In re Welfare of M.D.O., 462 N.W.2d 370, 375 (Minn. 1990) (citation omitted).† On appeal of a termination of parental rights,
[t]he appellate court must determine whether the trial courtís findings address the statutory criteria, whether those findings are supported by substantial evidence, and whether those findings are clearly erroneous.
Id. (citation omitted).
††††††††††† In a termination proceeding, the childís best interests must always be the primary consideration.† Id.† The party petitioning to terminate parental rights must prove the existence of a statutory ground for termination by clear and convincing evidence.† In re Welfare of J.S., 470 N.W.2d 697, 701 (Minn. App. 1991), review denied (Minn. July 24, 1991).† The existence of a single statutory ground is sufficient to support a termination.† In re Welfare of Maas, 355 N.W.2d 480, 483 (Minn. App. 1984) (citing Matter of R.M.M., 316 N.W.2d 538, 541 (Minn. 1982).† When substantial evidence supports the district courtís findings and those findings are adequate to support a termination, this court will uphold an order revoking a stay of a termination order. In re Welfare of D.T.J., 554 N.W.2d 104, 110 (Minn. App. 1996).
††††††††††† Mother does not dispute the existence of statutory grounds for termination or that termination is in M.J.L.ís best interests.† Her only claim on appeal is that the district courtís findings that she failed to comply with four of the settlement conditions are not supported by clear and convincing evidence.
1.†††††††† Motherís failure to take prescribed psychiatric medication
††††††††††† It is undisputed that mother failed to take the medication prescribed by her psychiatrist.† Mother stated in her responsive affidavit that she did not take the medication due to concerns about potentially dangerous side effects the medication could have had on her heart condition.† But the record contains no evidence substantiating motherís claim that she suffers from a heart condition or that the medication had potentially dangerous side effects to her.
2.†††††††† Motherís failure to work with therapist
††††††††††† Mother agreed to work with a mutually agreed upon therapist every other week.† Mother had only one appointment with the therapist, a telephone appointment on November 20, 2001, in which mother reported that she was doing fine on her own and did not need to set any therapy goals.† Mother failed to show up for several other appointments without calling ahead of time to cancel.† Mother stated that she missed the appointments for work-related reasons.† Because mother missed so many appointments without calling ahead of time to reschedule, the therapy agency placed her on probation and refused to allow her to schedule any therapy appointments for three months.
3.†††††††† Failure to submit calendars every other week
††††††††††† Mother agreed to submit a calendar of her daily routine every two weeks.† Child-protection worker Jessica Flynn stated in an affidavit that mother submitted only one calendar covering the two-week period from November 5 through November 16.† Mother alleges that she also submitted a calendar for the next two-week period, but mother did not produce a copy of that calendar.† Mother admits that she did not submit a calendar for a third two-week period.† Also, although the settlement required mother to ďsubmit a calendar of her daily routine and appointments,Ē the calendar for November 5-16 only listed motherís job-related activities.
4.†††††††† Failure to demonstrate understanding of M.J.L.ís special needs
††††††††††† A social workerís report of a supervised visit on November 26, 2001, states:
[Mother] needed continued prompts to do the most basic tasks.† She needed to be reminded to remove [M.J.L.ís] coat, to have him sit in a size appropriate chair, to move things out of his way that she knows he will spill.
††††††††††† Encouraging [M.J.L.] to eat independently has been one of the goals that the foster home has been working on this past year.† At each visit we have had with [mother] and [M.J.L.] we have told [mother] that [M.J.L.] can feed himself, with encouragement and prompts.† [Mother] had a very hard time sitting next to [M.J.L.]† She wanted to either feed him or have him be finished eating; she was unable to sit still for longer than 1-2 minutes at a time.† When [M.J.L.] would put his sandwich down she would assume he was finished and kept trying to put a toy she had brought in his lap.† After several verbal prompts from myself and the foster mother to encourage [M.J.L.] to finish eating, [mother] was very frustrated with us and kept saying that [M.J.L.] was done.† I told [mother] my goal was to allow 15 minutes for [M.J.L.] to eat.† [Mother] was unable to focus on the cues [M.J.L.] was giving, chewing, swallowing, and drinking.
††††††††††† [Mother] wanted [M.J.L.] to be able to leave his food on the table and come back to it when he wanted.† I explained to [mother] that part of our plan for [M.J.L.] was to be able to focus on one task at a time.
††††††††††† The visit lasted approximately 45 minutes and [mother] was unable to sit next to [M.J.L.] and read him a book or roll a ball to him.† She did not make eye contact with him.
Mother stated in her responsive affidavit that she saw M.J.L. as having more potential than realized by the foster parents.† Mother stated that she worked with M.J.L. to develop his full potential and that she and M.J.L. interacted positively together.
††††††††††† We conclude that the affidavits and reports submitted by RCCHSD in support of its motion to vacate the stay are clear and convincing evidence that mother violated the settlement conditions.† Mother submitted no evidence supporting her contentions that she (1) had valid reasons for failing to take prescribed psychiatric medication and failing to attend therapy appointments, (2) submitted two calendars to Flynn, and (3) had a better understanding of M.J.L.ís special needs than his foster family and professionals involved in this case.† Motherís affidavit is insufficient to overcome the evidence submitted by RCCHSD.† See Urbaniak Implement Co. v. Monsrud, 336 N.W.2d 286, 287 (Minn. 1983) (affidavit containing argumentative and conclusory statements is insufficient to withstand summary judgment).† The district court did not err in terminating motherís parental rights without an evidentiary hearing.† See In re Welfare of H.G.B., 306 N.W.2d 821, 825-26 (Minn. 1981) (holding that due process did not require motherís presence at termination hearing when mother was represented by counsel and never indicated what evidence she might offer in her defense).